- The symptoms associated with menopause — hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, sleep disturbances, joint aches and cognitive difficulties — cost an estimated $1.8 billion in lost work time in the U.S. annually, according to a Mayo Clinic study published Wednesday. That figure rises to $26.6 billion when medical expenses are calculated.
- Of the 4,440 employed women included in the study, 13% said they had experienced an adverse work outcome tied to menopause symptoms, and 11% said they missed work as a result of their symptoms, the study found. Adverse work outcomes included missing work, cutting back on hours, being laid off, being fired, quitting, retiring or changing jobs.
- “The takeaway for employers is that there is a critical need to address this issue for women in the workplace,” Dr. Stephanie Faubion, director of Mayo Clinic Women’s Health and the study’s lead author, said in a news release.
In the workplace, there are often shortcomings when it comes to women’s health benefits and treatment.
The availability of comprehensive health benefits can be the reason someone chooses to stay or leave a company, a Carrot Fertility survey of workers planning or building a family published April 18 found. Of the 5,000 respondents, 65% said they would switch jobs to work somewhere that offered fertility benefits, and 72% said they would remain at their company longer if their company provided those benefits. Seventy-five percent characterized fertility benefits as a key part of an inclusive company culture.
Infertility has historically been regarded as a taboo topic in the workplace. Menopause has a taboo attached to it as well, senior author Ekta Kapoor noted in the Mayo Clinic release. “Women often fear bias, discrimination and stigmatization, and therefore may be reluctant to disclose their menopause symptoms to their workplace managers and others,” Kapoor wrote. “Recognizing these concerns and creating a safe workplace environment for women to discuss their health care needs may help address this.”
“Clinicians need to ask women about menopause symptoms and offer guidance and treatment, and employers need to create and implement workplace strategies and policies to help women navigate this universal life transition,” Faubion said.
Because menopause occurs when women are around 52 years old, those affected make up a large part of the workforce, the researchers said. And the effects menopause symptoms can have on worker absenteeism, productivity, medical costs and lost chances for career advancement add up.
The Mayo Clinic authors recommend employers create safe environments for women to talk about their healthcare needs, provide employer and manager education and training, and offer supportive policies around sick leave and flexible hours.
A Workhuman survey last year found that fewer than half of women who responded felt their employers were supportive relating to their menopause, birthing process or wedding planning.